Historical Anachronisms

I recently experimented with using AI, specifically DALL-E, as a tool for teaching about anachronisms in history. While AI image generation offers fascinating possibilities, it’s important to approach this tool with a critical eye, especially in the field of historical education.

DALL-E, an AI model developed by OpenAI, has the capability to generate images based on textual descriptions. This offers an opportunity to visually discuss anachronisms – elements that are historically out of place – with students. For instance, by generating an image of a 19th-century setting with modern elements, students can visually identify and discuss historical inaccuracies.

However, it’s crucial to note that DALL-E, as of now, is not a subtle tool for this purpose. I asked it to create 5 images based on a specific event and add at least one anachronism to each. You can see the results below.

Despite the ease of finding the anachronisms in each of these, it was a good starting place for discussion and I am pretty confident my students will remember what an anachronism is now.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

AI Resources for Academics

Some AI Text Generation Models

Some AI Image Generation Models/Tools

Some AI Research Tools

  • ChatPDF – Ask Questions about PDF you upload
  • Elicit – Analyze Research Papers
  • Litmaps – Papers Linked by Citations
  • SciSpace – Literature Review, Copilot, Paraphraser

Some AI Internet Search Tools

Some Teaching AI Tools

Some Helpful Academics Using AI

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

First Required AI Assignment

I just created my first assignment requiring my history students to use AI.  It is a paper prep assignment for the Reacting to the Past – Constitutional Convention game that requires students to use AI to help generate the opening parts of their papers. What I’m hoping to achieve is to have students learn how to create useful and good prompts and how to rework those prompts to achieve their objectives.

This is what the current assignment asks them to do:

  1. Locate the Paper 1 topic on your role sheet. In the space below write 2-3 sentences about the topic your Paper 1 is supposed to address.
  2. Initial Prompt Creation: In the space below write an initial prompt for an AI model to create an essay on your first paper topic.
  3. AI Model: Input the initial prompt into one or more of the available AI models (Bing Chat, Claude 2, ChatGPT). Which model did the best job, or did you end up using to complete the rest of the assignment?
  4. AI Output: Post below the first two paragraphs of the essay generated by the AI model.
  5. Prompt Reworking: Based on the AI’s response, rework the initial prompt four times, aiming to improve clarity, specificity, and persuasiveness. Post below each reworked prompt that was used along with the first two paragraphs of the essay it generated.
  6. Upload: When done upload this completed to sheet to Canvas.
  7. Print: You may want to bring a printed copy of this sheet to class, where we will discuss, analyze, and reflect on the AI’s output.

What is really cool is that I made AI help me created the assignment.   You can see the prompts I used, and the output I got back.

I completed the assignment myself and will share it with the students when we discuss their results in class and I ask them to reflect on the process.

This is what the Google AI art generator apparently thinks history students working on papers looks like.
Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

AI Summaries of PDFs Files

I asked Claude 2 and ChatGPT-4 to outline some PDFs files.  And they do pretty well if the file is readable.  When the file is not readable, however, there is a major difference in output.

For example, when I asked ChatGPT-4 to write an outline of a file that contained Chapter 7 from Lillian Faderman’s books, Odd Girls and Twilight Lovers,  it told me: “I apologize for the inconvenience, but it appears that the text from the PDF file could not be extracted properly. The file might be composed of scanned images rather than selectable text, which would prevent the text extraction process from working.”

But when I asked Claude 2 to outline the same file this is what I got:
“Here is an outline for the pdf file:
I. Introduction
A. The author introduces the topic of relationships between odd girls and popular boys.
B. Themes: outsider/insider relationships, social hierarchies in high school, teenagers navigating relationships
II. Character Backgrounds
A. Bella – An odd, quiet girl who just moved to Forks. She is an outsider and doesn’t fit in.
B. Edward – A popular, handsome boy who is intrigued by Bella. He is wealthy and at the top of the social hierarchy.
III. Developing Relationship
A. Edward is fascinated by Bella and wants to get close to her.
B. Bella is wary of Edward at first but soon develops feelings for him.
C. They continue to bond despite their differences.
IV. Complications
A. Edward reveals he has a dangerous secret – he is a vampire.
B. Bella’s life is at risk but she wants to stay with Edward.
V. Heightened Romance
A. Edward and Bella’s relationship intensifies romantically and emotionally.
B. Their differences and Edward’s vampire nature create challenges.
VI. Conclusion
A. Edward and Bella have formed a profound connection, transcending social barriers.
B. Their unlikely relationship shows the power of love conquering all.
C. They plan to stay together despite the obstacles.”

This is not the outline of Faderman’s chapter, but what I think it is the outline of the book, Twilight. This is obviously problematic if someone was relying on Claude 2 for an accurate answer.  I’d rather get a response like ChatGPT-4 gave saying it could not complete the task, then get something that was just made up.

Interestingly, Bing Chat – perhaps because it is connected to the internet – gave me a pretty good summary of the  Chapter 7 (after first giving me a summary of Chapter 2).

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

AI Book Description

I’ve been playing around with AI more over the last week to see how it can be helpful for my own work and to provide me with some better ideas how to teach history in a world where AI is so available to students.

Today I told Bing Chat: Write a blurb for the back of a history textbook about the historical debates in U.S. Women’s history, the blurb should be between 300-500 words and focus on the variety of topics and scholars covered in the work, ask me questions about the text until you have enough information to write the blurb.

Bing replied: Hello, this is Bing. I can help you write a blurb for your history textbook.  First, I need to ask you some questions about the text. Please answer them as clearly and completely as possible.

    • What is the title of the textbook and who are the authors or editors?
    • What is the main theme or argument of the textbook?
    • What are some of the historical debates or topics that the textbook covers?
    • How does the textbook approach the study of U.S. women’s history? Does it use any specific theoretical frameworks, methods, or sources?
    • Who is the intended audience of the textbook? Is it for students, scholars, or general readers?

After I answered all the questions, Bing produced a description that was a little too ‘gushing’.  So I told it: Rewrite the blurb to be more informational and less about marketing.

And what I got back wasn’t too bad, it made up how many chapters are in the text, but otherwise it took what I told it and turned it into something I could use.  You can see its output below.

U.S. Women’s History: Historical Debates is a textbook that examines the field of U.S. women’s history through the lens of historical debates. Edited by Christy Jo Snider, this book consists of 12 chapters that cover some of the key topics in the history of women in America, such as witchcraft, birth control, slavery, and women in sports. Each chapter presents the views of two historians who have written influential works on the topic, showing the different interpretations, evidence, and arguments that shape the historical debates. The book aims to help college history majors learn how to critically analyze historical sources, evaluate historical arguments, and develop their own historical questions and opinions. U.S. Women’s History: Historical Debates is a textbook that reflects the complexity and diversity of women’s experiences and contributions to American history.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Perusall VS ChatGPT

Instead of giving students a reading assignment and having them answer specific questions about it in a paper they turn in to be graded,  I’m going to have students read and annotate a book on Perusall. Perusall is a social annotation program, where students can ask questions or make comments about the book as they are reading it.  Other students can interact with those comments and questions.  What is really cool about the program is that the instructor can set the guidelines for how it would like Perusall to evaluate those comments.  You can set the minimum number of annotations that are required, a penalty if students don’t read until to the end of the assignment, require students to make annotations spread throughout the entire work, etc. You can then go in to the Perusall gradebook, look at all the annotations/comments that students made, see how long they spent on the reading, see how much of the reading they finished, see what grade Perusall assigned them and then adjust the grade either up or down depending on your own evaluation of how the student performed.

I’ve created a H5P activity to teach students about the different types of annotations they can make in Persuall and what constitutes a good annotation.  I based this off of a handout created by physics professor Phoebe Jackson to teach her students about making high quality annotations.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Harriet Movie Resources

Resource List – Harriet Tubman


Primary Sources from DPLA:

Books in the Berry Library:

Smithsonian Website:

National Park Service :

List of Sites on the Underground Railroad

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

The United States Constitution, 1789 [H5P Interactive Content]

The United States struggled during its early years under the Articles of Confederation dealing with external powers and internal rebellions. In 1787, invitations were sent to all the states to attend a convention to discuss the changes necessary to create a national government strong enough to meet the needs of the new nation without trampling over the rights of the American people. The delegates met in Philadelphia in May 1787. After four months of debate and compromise, they submitted, a completely new government – the Constitution – to the states for ratification. Despite extensive debates about potential flaws in the proposed system, the Constitution was ratified in June 1788 and went into effect in 1789.

As you move through the different sections of the Constitution, you should make sure you can answer the questions asked on the embedded dialogue cards.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

New H5P Drag and Drop Activity

The activity below includes quotes about the treatment of Japanese Americans from governmental documents, newspaper accounts, and representatives of local US organizations. If the quote mentions a security rational for the treatment of Japanese immigrants drag and drop the purple security label on the quote. If the quote focuses solely on race as the motivation for the treatment of Japanese Americans drag and drop the green race label on the quote. When you have labeled all the quotes, you can check to see the accuracy of your understanding.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

New HP5 Content – English Bill of Rights 1689

I figured out how to use to the drag and drop HP5 content.  It is not intuitive even after going through the tutorial.  I found this video very helpful even though I didn’t use Drupal.  The point of activity below is to have students drag the common definition/meaning and drop it on the formal wording from the 1689 Bill of Rights.  I found in the past that although I assigned students to read the Bill of Rights not all of them really understood what it was saying.  Hopefully an activity like this will address that.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

H5P Content

I’ve been playing around with the H5P interactive content that I can embed in my canvas courses.  So far, I’ve only used a few of the tools.  But I’m finding them really cool and handy.

I’ve created a timeline for my survey course.

I also made a map that shows the changes that occurred during the  Dominion of New England for the US survey course.

I have an image of the Patrioic Ladies of Edenton, NC upon which I’ve added annotated hotspots for my US Women’s History course.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Cardi B

Interesting Vox article on how Cardi B works hard for her shmoney.  It sadly didn’t try to connect Cardi B to any female artists beyond Beyonce.  Perhaps if Constance Grady had looked back a bit further to the 1970s or 1980s could have made connections between Cardi B with someone like Madonna or Donna Summer, both of whom have more relevance to understanding Cardi B than do comparisons with her contemporaries.  Grady has plenty of other stories, however, that make some great historical/modern day connections.

[kad_youtube url=”https://youtu.be/MX7MbG6MiQs” ]Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Susanna Calkins – Historical Fiction Writer to Speak at Berry College

Copy of Live Concert

Dr. Calkins holds a Ph.D. in history from Purdue University and works at the Searle Center for Advancing Learning and Teaching at Northwestern University.  She writes an award-winning series for Minotaur/St. Martin’s Press featuring a chambermaid turned printer’s apprentice in seventeenth-century England. Currently, she is working on a new series set in 1920s Chicago.  Her website is: http://www.susannacalkins.com/Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Infographic Syllabus

After being inspired by a couple of different things I’ve read and some examples from people who have done similar things, I’ve turned my syllabi this year in less ‘wordy contracts’ and more infograph.  Mind you there are still lots of words on the syllabus – but it is less wordy than previously, the font is bigger, and it should stand out from the other syllabi students will be receiving.

Made with Piktochart – better control over look and design.

Made with MS Word – not exactly what I wanted.

Syllabus for same course that was used last semester.

I used Piktochart to create it, after a failed first attempt using word.  They have lots of snazzy templates, but I couldn’t really find something I ‘loved’.  Therefore, I ended up building something from scratch.  I based the color scheme and lots of the design elements off of pages from old books (especially books with pictures).  I’m pretty satisfied with the final product, although it took much longer to produce than usual.  Hopefully, in the future it won’t be so time consuming.  Here is a link to the full-size version.Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Who do they think is going to do this?

While working on my book manuscript today I ran across a letter from Sophonisba Breckinridge, a University of Chicago professor, to the famous Chicago social worker, Jane Addams.  In this letter she mentions Carrie Chapman Catt sending her a book manuscript that Catt believed needed a lot of work.  I thought Breckinridge’s question, “Who do they think is going to do this?” Might be equivalent to saying “Presume much?” today.

Facebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

Reading Strategically in College and Grad School

This post is primary focused on how grad students should go about tackling the tremendous amount of the reading they need to do.  It offers some advice, however, that undergrads should probably take to heart.

My piece of advice is:

“Reading without taking notes is time wasted. Taking notes on your reading will help you process the information more deeply. In graduate school, the purpose of reading is not to learn definitions or simple facts, but instead to develop a deep understanding of concepts and to be able to apply those ideas to your work. To do that, you cannot simply passively read texts. Taking notes and annotating your texts while reading will help you think deeply about what you read. Good note taking will also save you time in the future. Marking useful quotes or annotating your readings well means you will not have to read that same text over again to find the main points.”

Source: Reading Strategically | Graduate Connections | University of Nebraska–LincolnFacebooktwitterredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather